Hofstra eyes NCAA tourney bid


Despite back-to-back 19-win campaigns and a WNIT appearance in 2011-12, the Hofstra women’s basketball team has its eyes on a bigger prize this season — its first trip to the NCAA tournament. The Pride (19-12, 11-7 Colonial Athletic Association) saw last season come to end with a 73-71 loss to Harvard in the opening round of the WNIT.

Hofstra must replace the backcourt tandem of Nicole Capurso and Candice Bellocchio, and sharpshooter Katelyn Loper, who transferred to Oregon. However, expectations are high for the freshman class, which includes three guards, and the Pride brings back senior Shante Evans, one of the country’s top performers.

Hofstra got the season started on a good note with a 77-75 victory over Stetson in the WBI Tip-Off Classic in Daytona Beach, Florida. Junior guard Annie Payton scored a career-high 17 points to lead the way. The Pride followed up the win with consecutive losses to No. 15 Texas and No. 18 St. John’s. With one of the more difficult non-conference schedules in the nation, the Pride will be well-tested when CAA play begins.

Head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey believes her team will be up to the challenge. “We have to be playing good ball right from the get-go,” Kilburn-Steveskey said. “We’re looking forward to competing for the CAA title, with the goal continuing to be for this team to be the first in program history to get to the NCAA tournament. With 12 of the teams we’re facing having played in a postseason tournament last season, we know it’s not going to be easy. We have to outwork teams and get after it.”

While the Pride is inexperienced in the backcourt, it has a gem in Evans on the inside. The 6-foot senior forward, who averaged 19.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest as a junior, is homing in on becoming the all-time leader in both scoring and rebounds. Evans is 182 points and 15 rebounds shy of the current school records.

As a junior, Evans continued to rack up honors. She earned first-team All-CAA, AP honorable mention All-America, and first-team All-Met Division I recognition for the second straight year. In addition, Evans has been named to both the John R. Wooden Award Women’s Preseason Top 30 and Naismith Trophy Watch List.

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